Photography in History

The details
Art History and Theory
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 5
Sunday 17 January 2021
Friday 26 March 2021
29 July 2020


Requisites for this module



Key module for

BA V3R9 Art History with Modern Languages,
BA VR3B Art History with Modern Languages (Including Foundation Year and Year Abroad)

Module description

The year 1839 saw the birth of photography and the beginning of a revolution in the way people saw themselves, their nations, and their world. In this module, we will explore not only the evolution of the medium over the 175 years since its invention, but also the creation of the field within the discipline of art history.

We will consider photography in relation to the democratisation of portraiture; the development of new scientific methods and systems of surveillance; the photograph's change in status from document to artwork; the tension between photography and modernist art; the shifting definition of photojournalism; and the medium's role in the field of postmodern art.

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

1. to develop a greater understanding of key developments in the history of European and American photography;
2. to introduce students to issues related to some of the main developments in European and American photograph since its invention;
3. to raise students’ awareness of different methods for analysing the medium of photography and its personal, documentary and artistic uses;
4. to encourage debate about the place of photography in society;
5. to familiarise students with specialised debates in past and recent literature around the interpretation of photographs;
6. to encourage student awareness of different methods of approaching the discipline through analysis of chosen texts;
7. to stimulate students to develop skills in communication through assignments and seminars

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module the student should have:

a. a greater appreciation and richer understanding of the history of photography;
b. insight into different methods of interpreting photographs and texts based on some knowledge of the appropriate historical and interpretative contexts;
c. experience in subjecting photographs and texts to analysis and interpretation;
d. insight into the different methods of art-historical investigation that have been explored with reference to European and American photography;
e. an ability to discuss the history of photography and to reflect upon this history through assignments and seminars.

By the end of the module, students should also have acquired a set of transferable skills, and in particular be able to:

1. define the task in which they are engaged and exclude what is irrelevant;
2. seek and organise the most relevant discussions and sources of information;
3. process a large volume of diverse and sometimes conflicting arguments;
4. compare and evaluate different arguments and assess the limitations of their own position or procedure;
5. write and present verbally a succinct and precise account of positions, arguments, and their presuppositions and implications;
6. be sensitive to the positions of others and communicate their own views in ways that are accessible to them;
7. think 'laterally' and creatively (i.e., to explore interesting connections and possibilities, and to present these clearly rather than as vague hunches);
8. maintain intellectual flexibility and revise their own position based on feedback;
9. think critically and constructively.

Module information

Topics will include:

Introduction: What is a photograph?
The Invention of Photography
Portraits of the Living and the Dead
Science and Surveillance
Photography and Art I
Photography as Document
Photography and Modernism
Photography and Art II

Learning and teaching methods

There will be a two-hour combined lecture and seminar each week. All teaching events will be accessible to students on and off campus either face-to-face or remotely through online teaching. Week 21 is reading week.



Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework   2000 word essay     40% 
Coursework   Quizzes TOTAL    30% 
Coursework   SUMMER 24hr take home exam     30% 

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Natasha Ruiz-Gomez, email:
Dr Natasha Ruiz-Gómez



External examiner

No external examiner information available for this module.
Available via Moodle
No lecture recording information available for this module.


Further information
Art History and Theory

* Please note: due to differing publication schedules, items marked with an asterisk (*) base their information upon the previous academic year.

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